They’ve been popping up everywhere the past few weeks! Tiny baby Maples are pushing their first two leaves up to the sun from lawns and gardens throughout the city.
In the early Spring, all those helicopter-like Maple keys lying on the ground sent out a tiny little root to find the soil. This root pulled the papery sheath upright, and then split it apart as the leaves unfurled inside.
In the forest, the sprouts are just pushing up through the leaf litter as well. Most of these sprouts will be eaten (White-tailed Deer particularly love them), but Sugar Maples are quite patient trees. In the shade of the older generation, they will grow slowly and wait in the understory until a gap in the canopy opens up. The Escarpment between James and Dundurn is an especially nice place to watch the beginnings of a new generation of trees.
In the city, baby Maples can grow quite densely. They are spreading they roots and accumulating nutrients, and if folks didn’t mow their lawns, by mid-summer we’d have lots of ankle-high Maple trees showing their familiar leaves.
Of course, most lawns will be mowed and most gardens will be weeded. But do you know the tall Sugar Maples that line the downtown section of the Niagara Escarpment? Most of the sprouts in the city are probably Norway Maple, a foreign species popular for front lawns. But we like to imagine that some of these sprouts are the offspring of those Escarpment Sugar Maples, reaching out to turn the city into a forest again. The baby Maples are an invitation to imagine this city a different way — can you find them in lawns around where you live?